“It is not down on any map; true places never are.” – Herman Melville
Dear Readers: I’m taking a hiatus from writing new blog posts for a bit, so over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing some of my most popular past posts. Hope you enjoy this one – please share your thoughts in the Comments box below!
You’re excited to finally be the one in charge: you’re a new executive director, manager, or supervisor.
You’re at the helm, you’ve got your hands on the steering wheel, and everyone’s expecting you to be the one driving your team or organization towards significant results.
But just how exactly to do that?
Most of the time you feel ready and prepared. You’ve certainly got all the technical aspects handled, and you want to step naturally and confidently into this new role.
Some days, you feel like you’ve got it under control, but other days you’re not so sure. Wouldn’t it be easier if there was a manual telling you what to do and how to do it?
Here’s the leadership manual you’re looking for
I’m going to let you in on a little secret: there actually is a manual on how to do this, and it’s closer than you think.
It’s not on your bookshelf or at the library, and not available on Amazon (yet).
You don’t have to pull out your checkbook, find your credit card, drive to the bookstore, or go anywhere else to find it.
Here’s the secret: most of the answers you are looking for are already here, within you, right now, not in some secret guidebook, Amazon best seller or management course.
And before you roll your eyes, sigh, and click away, just hold on a minute and keep reading: I can show you how to find it.
How to write your own leadership manual
So, if you already have the answers on how you want to be leading inside you, how on earth do you find them?
1. Find examples
You probably know or have met leaders who you might aspire to be.
Think back on mentors, previous bosses or other leaders you admire. Who are your professional or personal heroes? What characteristics or qualities do you admire about them?
What we admire in others are typically characteristics we also hold ourselves, though perhaps in an as-yet less-developed form.
You can also look to examples of what you don’t want to be, as contrast.
Who was your worst boss? What characteristics do you not want to demonstrate? Then turn it around to what you do want.
For example, if you don’t want to micromanage, then how do you want to provide oversight?
2. Look at the horizon
Think about the impact you want to have in this role.
What’s your best case scenario of what you’d like to see happen?
What’s really at stake here? What’s bigger than you?
We sometimes don’t take the time to really get clear about our vision, thinking it’s too pie-in-the-sky.
But my experience is that you’re more likely to get where you’re going if you know where you’re headed and what’s important to you.
3. Make it up
While we need role models and vision to help us prepare and plan as best we can, ultimately much of what we do as leaders is actually made up: responding in real time to who and what is in front of us.
But how do you know what is needed? How do you know what to do?
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about some of my lessons from taking improv classes. Here are a few improv principles that apply well to the improvisational nature of leadership too:
- Dare to know something: you’ll make it easier on others if you do.
- Make a bold move, so people can see and know what you are doing.
- It’s always your turn. Commit fully to whatever you are saying or creating.
- Take good care of each other: be sure you and those around you are having a good time.
To which I’ll add my few other additions that help when we are making it up (which is all the time):
- Lighten up already.
- Don’t be so hard on yourself.
- If you make a mistake, it just means you get another chance to try again.
The good and the bad news is that your leadership manual will never actually finished. By stepping into whatever is here in the present, over and over again, and being open to the learning that happens as a result, you’ll uncover what works best for you, your team, and your organization.
In the Comments below, I’d love to hear your take on this!
What’s already in your leadership manual? Which of the ideas above speak most to you as you continue to discover your own unique leadership style?
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